I made myself indulge in something called a “mini-collage color workshop” last month. It wasn’t easy. And I’m not even that comfortable writing about it here. I had to drive over an hour to get there and sacrificed half a tank of gas to participate. But what can I say? I was “called”. And this time, I answered.
Yes it was colorful fun to create works of mini-art and great to meet new people – kind of a nice spin on networking – but the real resonance of the experience for me was in the closing discussion – Now What??
What do we DO with these things??
The ideas were all around pop-up marketing and engagement in heartful, ART-ful ways: We could…. tuck them into random library books for a little shot of color joy and surprise. We could….post them on our company bulletin boards and get people talking. We could….tuck them into windshield wipers…at area colleges…to nudge kids to VOTE.
My pop-up marketing project was born.
Relating to Resistance
As a culture, we take on the austere tones of our forefathers: creative color activities of this kind are for children, or the self-indulgent, or bored wealthy women with too much time on their hands. And that’s before we even get to the strictures of whether or not we have “talent”.
Ask a Better Question
But hold on. We’re wading into the wrong swamp.
Designer turned researcher Ingrid Lee makes the case that color and creative play spark a crucial emotion in us: joy. Her book “Joyful” begins with a story of a small city in Albania – a country continually trampled by authoritarian regimes both foreign and domestic. The mayor of this town felt he had to do something to counter the depression and dispirited ennui that had enveloped his community for decades. As an artist, he had only one small stone to hurl at this Goliath of despair: color. He had random buildings in the center of town painted outlandish shades of pink, yellow, tangerine. The populace was by turns amused, alarmed, confused and horrified. But…crime rates began to subside, people began to engage neighbors in the town square, new businesses sprang up, truancy at the local schools became less of a problem. The only change made was color.
Publicolor-ing Outside the Lines
You could dismiss all this with “Yeah, those crazy Albanians”.
But the you’d have to ignore the work of Publicolor: A NYC based non profit dedicated to bringing the power of color back into the tyranny of the ubiquitous gray and beige public school landscape. As their website states: “We use color and design to change lives”.
Here are some of their stats – again, the only change was getting students engaged through color:
- No Publicolor student dropped out of school in 2016-2017, the NYC dropout rate was 9.5% for minority peers in 2017.
- Publicolor had a 96% on-time high school graduation rate in 2017 vs. 66% of their peers at NYC public.
- 100% of Publicolor graduates now attend post-secondary schooling vs. 67% of low-income peers nationwide.
- Publicolor has 98% first-year college retention rate for graduates vs. 66% at CUNY citywide.
And this relates to Marketing…How?
So ok, that’s all very well and good for the education not-for-profit types, but what does this have to do with getting the word out about our For Profit businesses?
“There’s the kind that no one can possibly like. The high-pressure, track-your-private-data, scammy, spammy, interruptive, under-designed selfish nonsense. And then there’s the kind that inspires us, delights us and brings us something we truly want. (Joy!) We call them both marketing, but they couldn’t be more different.”
I would expect marketing that truly elicits joy has not only art, but Heart – even a degree of vulnerability. And to practice marketing of this kind, in our current culture requires the ability to take risks. Business doesn’t like risk. But artists do.
And Now….Time to RISK!
The day before the election, I took my mini-collages titled “So Much To Vote About!” and It’s YOUR Time to Vote”, copied them on card stock and went to my local college to place them carefully under windshields of cars parked in the dorm lots. I’m probably in security camera footage somewhere. But no one has complained. And I’d like to think that my ninja marketing efforts sparked some joy along with a little social action.
Outside my office window right now, the sun is shining and leaves of orange, gold and crimson are spinning off the trees – I may have to go “Joy-walking” (a term I hope I invented but probably didn’t – I’m not that “talented”) and see if I can get inspired to…who knows? But the world I live in just might be changed – one spark of Joy at a time.
Got a group allergic to risk? Here’s an intriguing, interactive tool to help get your group into a mental space conducive to authentic dialogue and innovation: Shift/POV: From Conflict to Collaboration in One Hour.